Love is in the air: Loving Hut leap of faith pays off

I had never heard of Loving Hut until a fellow Aussie vegan blogger residing in Brisbane wrote how it was one of his favourite restaurants early last year. I was thrilled to learn a Perth branch opened. Not just one, but two! A restaurant and a café!

First off, a history of the business. It’s a family of global vegan restaurants that has won numerous awards such as VegNews 2012 Favourite Vegan Restaurant, 2012 Vegan of the Year: Outstanding Vegan Business (Asia) and 2012 Vegan of the Year: Oustanding Vegan Restaurant (UK/Europe) – Menton, France. The founder believes (as do all vegans) “a plant-based diet is healthier, more compassionate, and is the only sustainable diet for the whole planet”.

Each Loving Hut is individually owned and managed (ie. Owners are given full autonomy of the menu), meaning no two restaurants are the same.

I have been to both Perth Loving Huts several times, and on this occasion hubby and I dropped in for breakfast to the café. I opted for the raw sandwich, only because it was something I’d never tried before and hubby chose the Big Breakfast. For drinks – two freshly pressed juices.

Hubby is blessed with a fast metabolism. He can eat like a horse and not exercise. Doesn’t gain a kilo. Mucho unfair *fist shaking in the air*. He was sceptical how ‘big’ Loving Hut’s Big Breakfast was going to be, but ceased all worrying when his food arrived.

The big V brekky

The big V brekky

For $15, it’s really good value. Toast, scrambled tofu, cherry tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms and a vegan sausage. He managed to finish it and said the scramble tasted exactly like eggs.

My raw sandwich consisted of ‘bread’ on either side of julienned vegetables. The dehydrated flaxseed bread wasn’t too salty and the texture was as bread-like as you could get. It was just right. The tasty relishes on the side were ohhh la la. One was tomato chutney and the other I’m actually not sure. It was sweet and yellow. Hmm, will have to ask next time.

raw sandwich

raw sandwich

A cursory glance at the desserts cabinet and I’m a goner. I never can say no. Problem: It was a bit early for sweets in the day. Solution: Takeaway! Hubby was too full to even go halves with me. On previous occasions I’d tried the (cooked) tiramisu, chocolate, mocha and carrot cakes, and of course the to-die-for soft serve icecream. Opting for the raw route, I take home a slice of raw mixed berry cheesecake and a raw pistachio macaroon.  (Side note:  later that afternoon we devoured the desserts.  Hubby said it’s the best raw cheesecake he’s had out of all the establishments we’ve tried!)

in the raw:  berry cheesecake and pistachio macaroon

in the raw: berry cheesecake and pistachio macaroon

The Loving Hut café not only has organic coffee, teas, juices, a salad bar, hot food station and dessert cabinet – they also dedicate a few shelves to vegan products such as Notzarella cheese, Primal Strips seitan vegan jerky, the Lam Yong range and Tofutti mock cream cheese among others.

As we were enjoying our meal, there was a steady stream of customers dropping in. The owner of Loving Hut Perth, Lee, says a wide variety of people come through the doors. Many are not vegans, they simply want a good feed that doesn’t cost the earth, like most things in Perth.

The next time I visit? I notice they have a Vegan Dim Sum on the menu. Their menu changes according to what’s in season, which keeps things fresh and sustainable.

Want to know more?

self-serve salad bar

self-serve salad bar

The Loving Hut Low Down:  1 Minute with Lee Mah, Owner of Loving Hut Perth

Lee Mah and her entire family are vegan.  She has a background in the restaurant business, owning two vegetarian establishments before foraying into the Loving Hut family.  In addition to running the two Loving Huts, Lee is also the Western Australian producer of vegan cheese Notzarella.  Those that haven’t tried it – you gotta.  A subtle tasting cheese, it melts and shreds just like mainstream cheese.  Melted on top of pizzas, lasagnas or as a grilled ‘cheeze’ sandwich?   Ohh la la…

Vegetarian / vegan since:

Vegetarian for over 15 years, vegan for 5 years.

Most popular dishes on the menu:

Thai green curry, sizzling peking and the mushroom delight.

Most touching Loving Hut moment:

At last week’s Running Raw around Australia Fundraising event in Cottesloe, Lee experienced something innately rewarding. A customer told her that her mother, after visiting Loving Hut Perth Cafe some months ago – has turned vegan. Lee further shares “I am touched…., and overwhelmed with gratitude and warmth. Though we have no intention of trying to convert anyone, we are simply providing vegan food and a venue for people to have an experience of eating vegan meals, However comments like this mean a lot to us all at Loving Hut Perth.”

(Note:  Running Raw around Australia is the initiative of cancer survivor Janette Murray-Wakelin & partner Alan Murray.  This couple are running 1 marathon per day for 365 days around the nation.  Why?  To draw attention to conscious lifestyle choices, kindness, compassion, sustainability and environmental awareness).

The Future of Loving Hut:

Exciting plans are underway to expand Notzarella production and Loving Hut’s famous pies.  In just 3 weeks’ time, you’ll be able to purchase Lee’s pies from your local IGA.  Hurrah!  Cue happy dance here.  As for Notzarella, Melbourne and Adelaide will follow suit, and there are currently 100 outlets in WA which stock it with this number set to increase.

Lee describes Loving Hut as being the medium to which she can promote a benevolent and peaceful world, a simple, humble vegan cafe and restaurant which is hoping to be able to serve the Perth community.

A generous soul, Lee has offered a 10% discount for my blog followers! Give the code “FriskaLove” to the Loving Hut staff when dining in the café or restaurant. This discount is valid from 3 months as of today. That means it expires on 12 December 2013 people.
NB: As of 23 September, Loving Hut East Victoria Park will only be open for dinner on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays as they ramp up Notzarella production.  Rest assured this is only temporary!  Best to like their Facebook page to keep abreast of their updates.
Loving Hut Cafe and Mini Mart
Shop 19, 366 Albany Highway
Victoria Park (Mon-Fri 10am-2.30pm, Weekend 10am-4.30pm)
9470 3969Loving Hut Restaurant
64A Etwell Street
East Victoria Park (Wed-Sun 5-9pm, Fri-Sun 5-9pm as of 23 September)
9470 6162
hot food station

hot food station

Pushing the sushi envelope – Aisuru Sushi’s vegan offerings

I’d heard a lot of good things about Aisuru.  Its vegan and vegetarian sushi offerings for one.  Its entire menu being 100% freshly made to order the other.

Relishing the opportunity to meet the man behind the chopsticks, hubby and I shared a quick meal with Ken, the proprietor of Aisuru Sushi.

It is apparent Aisuru Sushi is not your average sushi restaurant.  Hi-tech touches include iPads to take orders, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for seamless communication and printing of receipts – all housed in a contemporary setting.  The Subiaco establishment is the newest kid on the Aisuru block, a large open space with a family-friendly feel.  And guess what peeps – you can actually making bookings here, unlike its Northbridge counterpart!  Cue mass hysteria and cheer from families, groups and function organisers.

We were walked through the menu and given a crash course in history simultaneously.  His passion, knowledge and enthusiasm are obvious.

Aisuru Subi

Aisuru Subi

8 Little Known Gems

  1. Ken personally trained as a chef in Sydney and Japan to get an intimate knowledge on the workings of a kitchen
  2. No chefs he interviewed knew how to fulfil his vision
  3. The California roll was the 1st fusion sushi roll.  Japanese migrated to the US in droves in search of better opportunities.  When these migrants arrived, they wanted Japanese food.  Salmon was very expensive at the time, and they sought an ingredient which mimicked the texture and consistency – avocado was the substitute
  4. There was joy when the disabled ramp he installed was actually used
  5. The Aisuru menu is 2 years of Ken’s time, perseverance, and dedication
  6. Aisuru offerings only came in 8 pieces, however customers consistently requested half rolls in order to sample more of their dishes
  7. An external consultant was brought on to advise on creating vegan and vegetarian dishes – what to use, what not to use, ingredient substitutions and flavours
  8. The vegan menu was accepted from Day 1 – and not just by vegans

Now what you’ve all been waiting for… the FOOD.

First off the bat, two very popular dishes:  The Crunchy Buddha’s Delight and Veganpillar.

Veganpillar

Veganpillar

The first had a satisfying crunch in every bite, combined with creamy avocado and flavoursome mushrooms.  I chose to have the Veganpillar with plum sauce.  You can also have it with the special mustard sauce.  All sauces are made in-house.

A sight for the eyes is the sensational Beets International.  Deep red beetroot, neon splashes of mustard sauce contrasted with the greens of cucumber, avocado and asparagus.

Beets International

Beets International

Now I love this name… Apple of Love.  Awww.. its actually seasoned and blow torched razor thin tomatoes layered on top of rolls filled with greens.  Why Apple of Love?  Well (another fun fact from Ken here!) when tomatoes first arrived in France, they did not know what it was.  They needed a name for it obviously.  Given their kinda-sorta shape similarity to apples, the French decided to call it the Apple of Love, because of its rouge colour.  So romantic.  So French.  Oui?

Apple of <3

Apple of ❤

Another favourite of customers on the menu is the Magic Mushroom.  No, it does not have any of “those” sorta magic mushrooms.  This G-rated version combines enoki and button mushrooms in the one roll.  This one was lower on the totem pole in terms of flavour.  Rather, the subtle natural flavour of the mushroom is allowed to shine through. 

At the insistence of Ken, we tried the Sweet Corn Tempura.  Literally corn straight off the cob.  Kinda like popcorn shrimp without the shrimp!  Hubby found it hard to stop picking at it, very Moorish and very easy to OD on.  Thank God we weren’t at home in front of the telly otherwise he would’ve polished off the whole plate.

Corn Tempura

Corn Tempura

Hubby just had to try the best-selling double-wrapped Plum flower roll.  Somewhat of a flagship dish at Aisuru, it’s chicken teriyaki and avo wrapped in nori and shari, then wrapped once more in tamago egg and liberally doused with sauce.

A brand new addition to their new 2013 menu (out soon)  – vegan yakitori sticks!!!  We sample two varieties of tofu yakitori:  one with sea salt and ginger, the other with traditional yakitori sauce.

all vegan sweet beancurd skin roll

all vegan sweet beancurd skin roll

By this point I am fighting the urge to undo the top button of my jeans.  Yeah… been chowing down like it’s going out of fashion.  It’s catching up with me!  Taking a sip of water while hubby takes one for the team and demolishes what I can’t finish, my thoughts start to wander to dessert.

As the green tea matcha ice cream isn’t vegan, I opt for the Banana Split Maki.  The description doesn’t do it justice: fried banana topped with fresh fruits and whipped cream.  Sprinkled with icing sugar.  Drizzled with chocolate and raspberry sauce.   We’re told customers throw caution to the wind and actually L-I-C-K the plate clean.  Some don’t even order sushi and just go straight for this baby.

The dish arrives and…

banana split maki

banana split maki

Holy.  Moly.  If looks could seduce… we’d all be in our birthday suits right about now.

Mine is the one on the end – without the cream.  The challenge was to eat the whole thing in one go to get the mish mash of different flavours in your mouth.  Banana split maki – 1.  Friska – 0.  It took me 3 mouthfuls to finish it off!

That topped off our first Aisuru dining experience.  But definitely not the last.

At the end of our meal, I asked what prompted Aisuru to commence offering vegan and vegetarian choices.  He synthesizes what I had been noticing myself.  People want vegetarian food.  People want vegan food.  I have noted it is now less of a struggle for me to buy vegan items in mainstream cafes, restaurants and supermarkets.  Change is happening!

Aisuru wanted to:

a)      Be different

b)      Give consumers the choice

c)       Be innovative

d)      Never compromise on quality

e)      Provide fusion sushi comparable to the most cutting edge restaurants in Tokyo, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hong Kong, New York – the renowned “food capitals” of the world.

f)       Cater to the growing ex-pat community who are looking to recreate the same dining experiences they had while living abroad.

What can I say except mission accomplished.

Magic Mushroom

Magic Mushroom

Soon those with food intolerances can rejoice with glee!  There’s gluten free and lactose intolerant options currently being worked on by the team.  The Subiaco space will also have a separate lounge area and a fridge dedicated to cakes and other sweet things to tantalise your tastebuds.

Other than that, expansion is on the cards for Aisuru.  Perth will forever be known as its first home.  Future plans are underway to roll out the concept in South Africa, Indonesia, Singapore, and the USA among many others.

I’m chuffed to think we will have a home-grown global success story.  Thinking more near-term, I’m even more ridiculously chuffed for the ability to eat sushi with hubby and non-vegan friends – without having to order the borrrrrrrr-ing cucumber roll.

Thumbs up from me.  Thumbs up from hubby.  Hubby hails from the birthplace of ‘fusion sushi’ – California.   Every so often in a fit of nostalgia he’ll wail in disappointment ‘I miss the food back home!  It lacks flavour here, it’s expensive and service is crap!’

He thanks Ken with deep sincerity “food like this makes being far away from home so much more bearable”.  You know you’re onto a good thing when the proprietors of Little Caesar’s and Jacksons’ are your regular customers.

Final verdict?  Nobu quality, Subway prices.

The finer details…

Aisuru Sushi Subiaco

480 Hay Street Subiaco – Bookings available on 9381 2919

Closed Public Holidays, Sundays and Mondays. Moving to 7 days a week very soon.

Lunch 12 to 230. Dinner 6 to 930 (till 10pm fri and sat)

&

Aisuru Sushi Northbridge

208 William Street, Northbridge

7 days a week. Lunch 12 to 230. Dinner 6 to 930 (till 10pm fri and sat)

selection of thirst quenchers